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Thinking about buying Sabatier Carbon Steel Knife-Any Thoughts?

I'm looking for a good chef's knife. I read somewhwere that 100% carbon steel maintains a sharper blade, though it rusts. At one point in time, we had a carbon steel knife and it was really sharp (we never sharpened it) and it developed rust spots.

It is either this or a Wusthoff Classic. Which one?

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  1. Well, they are almost oppose. Wusthof Classic knives are made from X50CrMoV15 very corrosive resistant (very stain resistant). They are more stainless than many stainless and they are very tough knives but soft. In other words, the edge get easily rolled, but they are resistant against chipping.

    I think most carbon steel knives are the other way around. They are prone to rust, can take a very fine edge, the edge does not roll easily, but can chip from time to time. It really depends your style.

    1. For general use consider a stainless knife. First you have to be committed to good knife care when using a carbon steel knife. You want patina not rust to form. Rust is corrosive and will destroy your knife. Carbon steel knives can react with certain foods to cause unpleasant odors a off tastes. You will note this when cutting an onion or fruit with a carbon blade. Carbon can cause certain foods to oxidize more rapidly after being cut. If I were to have 1 knife it would be stainless. But why limit yourself. Each has it's attributes and can excel at certain jobs.

      1 Reply
      1. re: scubadoo97

        I have a number of both carbon steel knives -- including a Sabatier slicing knife and a Wusthof 10-inch chef's knife. I can testify that you can get a peerless level of fine edge, but are subject to the limitations cited in the various posts. I also have a number of Wusthof Classic stainless, which are much harder to keep at a really fine edge, but otherwise are very good for everyday use.

      2. It all depends on how much effort you want to put into caring for your knife. If you want to just use it, wipe it off and throw it back in the knife drawer, I'd suggest a stain-resistant one like the Wusthof. I have a high-carbon Masamoto, and I maintain it by rubbing it down with mineral oils at the end of my shifts (I'm a chef). If you do this, your knife will discolor, but won't develop harmful rust, and eventually, the discoloration will develop into a sort of protective barrier that makes it less prone to develop the harmful rust. It only takes a minute, you just have to remember to do it. I've forgotten it every once in a while, and my knife is still fine and holds an amazing edge. So it just depends on how involved with your knife you want to be.

        1. Why are your choices limited to a Sabatier or a wusthoff classic?

          Carbon sabatiers will take a very nice sharp edge, but they don't hold it as well as a carbon steel Japanese knife. Sabs don't really hold their edge for all that long - they use a fairly soft carbon steel. Some of the clad carbon Japanese knives are easier to maintain because they form a protective patina on the edge while the sides of the knife are stainless. Sabs are slightly quicker to sharpen though.

          Maintenance for carbon isn't bad - wipe down the blade every couple minutes during use, wash and dry immediately after use, oil if putting into storage, and no dishwashers. Sounds like more work than it is, really. If you live a very humid place - Hawaii, for example - you could have more rust problems than most.

          I personally like old carbon Sabs, but they wouldn't be my first choice as a chef knife from a functional standpoint.

          4 Replies
          1. re: cowboyardee

            I live on the central west coast of Florida. I have a Hiromoto HC (high carbon) gyuto. No rust or significant patina forming even though this 300mm beast is in the case more than it ever gets used. I hear of people putting oil on their carbon knives to keep rust from forming. I just don't see that happening and it's about as humid as you can get here. I also leave two carbon steel knives out after use. They are washed and dried but stay out on a cutting board most of the time. No rust issues there either.

            1. re: scubadoo97

              Thanks for the reply scubadoo. I live in western PA, so I'm speculating about humid climates based only on what I've heard. I've read specifically about people having problems in Hawaii, living very near the ocean. I believe it may even have as much to do with salt as with humidity (I know salt speeds rusting - I have no idea how it would get from the ocean to one's kitchen).

              At any rate, its good to know that my carbon knives would hold up should I decide to move to Florida. Given the winter we're having up here so far, that sounds tempting - I don't need many more excuses.

              1. re: cowboyardee

                26 degrees this morning. Doesn't seem like Florida to me.

                Also, I'm 1.5 miles from the Gulf of Mexico. My Hiromoto is in it's box in a kitchen drawer but my other carbons are sitting out.

                1. re: scubadoo97

                  It's entirely possible the people I heard from were blaming the elements for their ineptitude.

                  Also - it looks like you'll be in the 50s today and the 70s later in the week. Our high for the day is 25. Florida is still looking up, Anyone from Fargo want to chime in?

          2. I have several Sabatier carbon steel knives that I have had for years. I love them. They are not beautiful, but I love them. Patina would be a kind word, and since I love them, let's use that. They are so easy to put an edge on. You can avoid rust spots by drying the knife right after washing it, but the rust spots don't affect the knife other than looking bad.

            1. There are different kinds/brands of Sabatier carbon steel knives out there. We have one that is definitely not Theirs Issard and is quite old. As I recall when it was new it had some sort of grape cluster pantographed on it. (TI uses a lion and stars). It is a 10" that I use for EVERYTHING, and I love it. It is light and nimble enough to core a tomato and sharp enough to slice it paper thin. It will carve a roast or slice a crusty loaf. I honestly would be ok with just this knife.

              We have a couple of Thiers Issards, my wife's chef's knife (8"), a slicer (10"), and two utility knives -- 4" and 6". We also have a couple of the Thiers-Issard Nogent paring knives (2 1/2 " and 3"). They are incredible, noticeably lighter, very straight edge. None of them are that hard to care for: hone, use, rinse, wipe, store, repeat. They get sharpened once or twice a year.

              1. I have two carbon steel Sabatiers -- a 12 inch Chef's (Four Star Elephants from Thiers Issard) and a Sabatier K six inch Chef's Knife. I love them both, but I treat them as though they were made of gold. You must wash and dry them carefully, and dilgently do so after each use. No leaving them around on the counter after cutting things while you eat dinner. I use the 12 incher to break down big pieces of meat, like a whole brisket into pot roast size pieces, and I use the six incher when I am doing smaller work that a paring knife seems a little light for. They stay as sharp as anything with a grooved steel only, and I love to use them both. To protect them, I even store them in a different place (magnetic rack hidden in a cabinet) and keep a light coating of vegetable oil on them after drying. I would hate even for a houseguest to get their hands on my precious Sabatiers.

                However, my every day knives are a ten inch stainless steel Shun Kaji (Elite) and an eight inch Henkels Twin Pro. I use the Shun for virtually everything, and it is very sharp. I pull out the Henkels Twin Pro, which is similar to the Wusthoff Classic in design and heft, for when I need to cut up a chicken (small bones) or I think that the Shun might be little too delicate, because it is so thin. I have sharpened the Henkels to be much sharper than the factory edge. Most Henkels and Wusthoffs are not as sharp as Japanese blades or carbon steel Sabatiers out of the box.

                My advice, frankly, is to go with stainless steel unless you are doing lots of cutting of proteins like beef and pork roasts, or if you have any doubt that someone in your household will not remember to treat carbon steel the right way. You also need to be able to deal with patina, which protects the knife but looks like discoloration if you are not knowledgeable Most people aren't into them, but if you are, you will love them. If not, and if can afford to buy a new Sabatier, you are almost in the price range of Shun, so shop around and look at one of those. I would recommend some of the other Japanese brands like Misono, but it is much harder to find them in stores. You should be trying them out in person.

                4 Replies
                1. re: RGC1982

                  RGC as well as others,

                  Do carbon steel knives require much more work than quality stainless steel knives? I think carbon steel knives require more care than poor quality stainless steel knives because people soak mediocre stainless knives in the sink and throw them in dishwasers. However, people take good care of high quality stainless steel knives. We hand wash them and wipe them off shortly after use. So is there real additional work from say using a Shun stainless VG-10 knife and using a Sabatier carbon steel knife?

                  I don't know. I have never own a carbon steel knife, but I am thinking about getting one.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    I treat them all the same. Wash and dry as soon as you are done using it. If you do that you won't have to worry. I once left my Tojiro gyuto wet overnight and found a tiny spot of rust at the edge. Stainless does not mean stain proof, just it stains less.

                    1. re: scubadoo97


                      Thanks. Right now, I clean my knives right after preparing all foods. However, I have heard that some wipe their carbon steel knives more often. They would wipe the knife in between vegetables. For example, if they are to cut tomatoes, onions and celery, then they will wipe the knife after cutting tomatoes, and then wipe the knife again after cutting onions, then after celery ... etc etc.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                        If I was a line chef I think that would be necessary but the time it takes to dice a few onions or tomatoes is pretty short. I've not seen any harmful oxidation in that short period of time but I sometimes keep a paper towel near by to do a wipe down with before washing.

                2. I am sick of dull knives. My husband bought a stainless steel chef knife about 10 years for forty dollars, and it is very dull. He spent 20 minutes sharpening it last night, and it is still dull. It won't cut a slice of paper like Chris Kimball did on Americas test kitchen.

                  I cook all kinds of meat dishes and chop a lot of vegetab le during the week, so i need a good sharp reliable knife that doesn't need to be sharpened often. I heard that carbon knives don't require frequent sharpening, so that's why i'm interested in one.

                  9 Replies
                  1. re: arupiper


                    The knife edge holding ability (remaining sharp) depends on the function of the knife. Sometime it is about steel strenght, some time steel toughness and sometime wear resistance. For most home cooks, the edge holding ability is related to the steel strength (hardness). Today, there are many stainless steel knives which can rival carbon steel knives. Shun Classic knives are made from VG-10 with steel hardened to HRC 61, much harder than typical Henckel and Wusthof knives (which are ~ HRC 57), and Shun Classic knives are far from being the best stainless knives.

                    Many carbon steel knives are pretty hard, but Sabatier carbon steel actually are not, they are soft in comparison (~54-56).



                    Contrary, Japanese carbon steel knives are much harder. For example, Mizuno Ao Hagane DX knives are hardened to HRC 62-63, and Masamoto HA knives are hardened to HRC 64-65.

                    1. re: arupiper

                      If your husband spent 20 minutes sharpening and it was still dull it's not the fault of the knife.

                      1. re: scubadoo97

                        I've never seen a knife that wouldn't slice paper after a good sharpening.

                        But i have definitely seen knives that won't take an edge that I would consider "sharp." Knives that barely shave arm hair right off the stones and strop, and lose even that sharpness almost immediately with use. Really poor grain structure in the steel can make it between pretty hard and impossible to create a respectable edge.

                        1. re: cowboyardee

                          Often the problem with an edge that collapses is a wire edge that was not removed. This small micro burr will still shave hair and slice paper but will collapse on use.

                          1. re: scubadoo97

                            Not in these cases. You can even feel it on the edges after sharpening - carbide tearout - it feels perpetually like you sharpened it to a lower grit than you have, and poorly at that. The theory is that it comes from large uneven carbides in a weak steel matrix ripping out of the edge as you sharpen, leaving it duller than most edges. Really hard to take up to a high polish with any degree of success. A wire edge will typically be a lot sharper than this type of edge before it folds over. These knives barely shave in the first place and their losing of even that initial "sharpness" isn't as dramatic as with a wire edge. Careful deburring has no effect.

                            Most common with cheap nameless knives - I have some old henckels knockoffs that are a good example. But since I've been occasionally sharpening other people's knives, I've noticed other brands too. I believe it comes from some combination of cheap alloyed steel and poor temper.

                            1. re: cowboyardee

                              Would this be why the Dexter Russel knives that were gifted to me are such a pain in the ass? No matter how much I sharpen them on my whetstone, I can't get a decent edge. They're my first "pro" kitchen knives, so I'm not sure if it's the knives or me that's the problem. I never had difficulty sharpening cheap Chicago Cutlery knives...

                              1. re: austintexican

                                "Would this be why the Dexter Russel knives that were gifted to me are such a pain in the ass? "

                                What is the problem?

                      2. re: arupiper

                        Hi Arupiper,

                        Well ... perhaps your husband is better at his day job than he is at knife sharpening? :-) Sorry but I couldn't resist. He may simply not have the right gear to do it. A badly abused knife can take a while to get back to SHARP, without the right tools. I can almost any knife and get it slicing paper (not necessarily a pure push cut) in 5-10 minutes. That chef's knife of yours would probably take on a whole new life to you, with one good professional sharpening. This is probably worth doing, if you like the feel of the knife in your hands.

                        Even if right now you buy a GREAT knife, whatever it is, will need to be maintained. I have quite a few knives, and many more than I need. You do a lot of "veggie chopping" as well as prepping meats. So ... if you are to get only 1 knife to start, I'd probably suggest a good Japanese knife like a Gyuto (this is their chefs knife) or a Santoku (like a chef's knife but with a flatter edge profile - better for chopping veggies). The "perfect" veggie knife is a nakiri - one long flat edge.

                        For the money, you should consider Tojiro knives. An easy place to get them is chefknivestogo.com. Mark is very helpful and will answer all your questions and provides great service. Tojiro makes all the basic styles that you would want - AND - with both standard western handles or traditional Japanese handles. This is really important, so that the knife is really comfortable to YOU. They also make them in high carbon as well as stainless (dp series). For the money, you will be hard pressed to find a better value (most are $50 for carbon and 65 - 80 for stainless).

                        Regardless, you'll need to maintain it. You can have this done for you for $5-8 a shot or get a kit for about $40 and do it yourself.

                        In any case, in my opinion, the best value for you in buying 1-2 new GOOD knives will be a Japanese knife. But they need not be "asian style".

                        If you simply want a sharp knife for less money, that is easy to maintain, is stainless - you can get a 2-knife set of Henckles International and they will readily shred paper, onions, tomatoes, etc - whatever you want - for $20 or so. My parents have a set and they are decent knives. I touch them up when I visit.

                        Many of us here are "knife fiends" and buy some pretty darn good knives. Some of us don't think it's a big deal to buy knives for $150 or more. Me? I prefer getting the very best steel that I can for under $100.


                        1. re: arupiper

                          Get a Global 8" Chef's nice and a honing steel. You'll be set for a LOOOOONG time :)

                        2. I swear by Japanese knives. I've got a Masamoto 8.2" Virgin Carbon Steel gyutou, and a Glestain 9.4" Acuto Steel gutou. the Acuto steel is a little softer since it's stain-resistant, but not much. Both are perfectly balanced for their purpose, both hold an incredible edge. I use a diamond steel to hone them both because of their hardness, but I rarely have to steel them at all. When I first got the Masamoto, I wiped it down with mineral oils every night after my shift, but now I just clean it with water and wrap it in a paper towel.

                          1. I am glad to hear someone confirm that Sabatiers are not all that hard. I am a total non-metallurgist, but they just always seemed soft, not in a a bad way. They are so light compared with German knives that may be a little of what gives the impression.

                            1. I have around a dozen carbon steel Sabatiers and love them. They take and hold an edge beautifully, especially with frequent steeling. But, they are a tad fussy with regard to care and feeding, and to be honest my love of them is largely sentimental. There is a place called The Best Things in Virginia that carries new old stock carbon steel Sabatiers as well as those of current manufacture. If what you want is something nice and cool, and are willing to put up with the quirks then I say go for it. However, if you just want an attractive workhorse I would go with a Wusthoff, stainless Sabatier (be careful here to select one of the better producers), or something Japanese (not a huge fan of Shun, but MACs are pretty nice as well as other smaller producers that I suspect other members could clue you in to).

                              1. If you rub a thin coat of food safe oil on a carbon steel knife after cleaning much like with cast iron cook wear it will stop rusting from being an issue. You just have to pamper that knife, especially after cutting your more acidic items like tomato or citrus fruits.

                                3 Replies
                                1. re: brad87561

                                  Yeah, after cutting my onion with my carbon steel knives, my chopped onion all turned dark. To be sure, I cut another onion with a stainless steel knife and the new chopped onion were light color. Carbon steel knives definitely affect the color of foods and the they also have a metal smell/scent to them.

                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                    You are right about both the scent and color, at least from time to time, but cast iron skillets and some other things have those same issues to a degree. I guess over time I have gotten to somewhere between "I don't notice" and "I don't mind." I gave up years ago on my food looking like magazine food, and I figure if it has a slight steel smell it just needs more garlic, garam masala, anchovy, whatever.. .

                                    I will say that I am in awe of the knowledge people on this board display about all manner of things, but for me the system of carbon steel knives,a decent steel, and twice a year through the Chef's Choice sharpener ensures that whatever I pull out of the block will be sharp enough to do anything I need to do with ease, whether it is chunking up a shoulder for stew or sliciing tomato thin enough to read through it. The maintenance thing has become automatic. Of course when ANYONE else uses my knives there is a tendancy to hover since people from the stainiess steel world don't think about hone - use -- rinse -- wipe. They think use -- leave for clean up later. AAARGH. (and if they are also using a tim lined copper pan in my kitchen I am just about over the edge). I am sure they think I am nuts.

                                    I guess it is all a matter of trade offs. I tried and could never do the same jobs as easily with a Henckels stainless steel knife. I will say some of those high end Japanese knives are beautiful and intriguing, but after you live with a knife you really like long enough, it gets hard to imagine changing.

                                    1. re: tim irvine

                                      Hey Tim,

                                      Yes, I am from the stainless steel knife world and now trying my hands on the carbon steel knives. Yes, I noticed my onion turned dark/yellow when I were making my gumbo. Then, I realized I really don't care for the discoloration because all my ingredients were going into a cast iron Dutch Oven anyway. I mentioned the discoloration just as an observation, not really a complaint. I actually didn't notice my food has metal taste or smell. I only noticed my knife has that metal smell. Again, that could be because I am already using carbon steel and cast iron cookware, so the iron scent from the knife is nothing compared to the cookware.

                                      I paid for a $80 Tojiro white carbon steel Usuba. It will be my second carbon steel knife. I am really excited about it, but it has not arrived for almost 4 weeks already and I am getting worry that it is lost in the mail. Knock on wood.

                                2. I've had a Sabatier 10" Chef au Ritz carbon steel knife since the '70s, and it still does a superb job with minimal care. (After using it I wipe the blade dry with a kitchen towel, and wash it when convenient. Very easy to steel and sharpen.) Sabatier isn't a distinctive brand name any longer as many makers use it, and I don't know if all the choices are as high quality as the Chef au Ritz, or if that's made any more. I've read that Sabatier knives aren't what they used to be.


                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: armagnac

                                    Ditto here - '70s vintage Sabatier carbon steel (10" chef's and 8" utility/slicer) and they are far and away the sharpest knives in the house - the slicer in particular I swear you could shave with. I've never oiled them, just wash and dry after each use. Very easy to sharpen.

                                  2. Agree that just because it says Sabatier does not mean you are getting what you want. I have several Thiers-Issard, both their regular carbon steel line and a couple of their Nogent paring knives. They are all comparable quality to my knives I've had for 40 years, especially the blades on the Nogents (although Nogent knives are not full tang and have a little ferrule around the handle/blade connection). My 10" chef's is 40+ years old. It has a pretty natural wood handle, not a black one, and I vaguely recall that the logo on the blade was a cluster of grapes (long since gone with the patina of time and use). I have not seen any more like it.

                                    1. I have both 6" and 8" Thiers-Issard carbon steel chef's knives and I love them. I prefer the French pattern blade shape but it isn't for everyone because it doesn't have the same blade rock as the typical(German) knife that most Americans are used to.

                                      I don't have a problem with the rust because I keep a piece of cotton soaked with mineral oil wrapped around the blade in the sheath that they are stored in.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Kelli2006

                                        I like the cotton soaked w. mineral oil idea...ingenious

                                        a sad commentary on either the company I keep or, if it is representative, Amerca...I am not sure they are used to ANY kond of knives. Almost everyone I know has terrible knife skills, holding the knife way up the handle, away from the bolster, and using an up and down (not quick) motion better suited to a single edged razor blade. But you are right, they don't have near the rock that a German knife will have (although they have enough for me). The larger ones have a little more. The Nogents are pracitically straight edge, not good for chopping but unbeatable for paring.

                                      2. I have been using carbon steel knives for 2 years now, mostly Sabatiers but also some Sheffield and a Henckels. I absolutely love them. When I first get them, I take them to my water stones and give them a thinner edge (15 degree, roughly) - they easily hold this with honing before use.

                                        I then cut some onions and let a patina form. They don't rust after a few layers of patina, and it looks amazing. Eventually the blade goes dark blue/grey, and the edge has the steel shine from sharpening. It's the sexiest knife look if you ask me.

                                        I don't know why people have so much problems with rust. It's a non-issue for me.


                                        1. I just received the knife pictured below for Christmas and am very excited to use it, though it is my first carbon knife, so the advice in this thread is very much appreciated. After reading these posts it seems that there are many producers of "Sabatier" knives and they vary in quality. Can anyone shed some light on the specific one I received? I believe it was ordered from thebestthings.com. Also, as far as sharpening goes, should I take it to a place, or is using a home sharpener sufficient? I've been using the Chef's Choice Diamond Hone Sharpener 4633, but again, I'm not too familiar with carbon blades. Thanks for any help!

                                          5 Replies
                                            1. re: freshnlow

                                              Elephants are quite good. However, I would not use an electric sharpener on knifes that have a wide bolster that goes to the very heel of the blade. They tend to take a lot out of the belly but none off the bolster. Eventually the edge will not fully contact the board when pressed flat. You can get away with the electric sharpeners for Shuns and most stamped chef's knives because you can go the full length. I would just use a steel frequently, and perhaps get a diamond steel for more occasional honing. You shouldn't have to put the knife to a stone but very rarely.

                                              1. re: freshnlow

                                                Hey there! This might be a wee bit late but that's a chef's knife from the Thiers-Issard 4 star elephant brand, one of their newer ones actually. It is among the three best sabatier brands (in my humble opinion) and is a wonder! Some even claim it to be the best. You've got a good knife there and TI has been around since the the early 20th century.

                                                As for the knife itself I wouldn't use a sharpener on it, I actually wouldn't let it wander within 10 feet of one! You probably want some good water stones or oil stones. I'd suggest a 1k grit stone and a 5-6k and then do it by hand.

                                                Have a good one!

                                                1. re: freshnlow

                                                  i have a vintage Sabatier. high carbon steel.

                                                  how can you tell? first the logo is stamped in the blade. not etched or colored. second, the tang of the knife is tapered. it gets thinner as you go to the back end of the handle. more expensive to build it this way, so the new knives are the same thickness throughout the handle. this taper is supposed to help improve balance. the Sabatier name was coined long before trademark and copyright laws were around, so there are alot of Sabatier knives. Elephant, 4 stars, etc. mine is a Trompette. i love the thing! it is what i reach for 9/10 times. fast, nimble, sharp!! too some getting used to because i had to keep it dry. now i just keep a dishcloth on the counter (folded)..i just jam the blade in the fold and pull..dry! not the best knife for slicing red onions. the onions get tinted gray/dark.

                                                2. I have an assortment - 2 3" paring knives, a boning knife, a 6" utility knife, a 10" slicer, a 10" chef, and finally a 12" chef that was my father's. I love them.

                                                  They require care, but I keep a whetstone on the counter next to their knife block and a steel in the block, and am meticulous about washing them in hot water as soon as they are used, drying them, and then honing them on a steel; I use the whetstone on them every so often depending on how much they are used.

                                                  I have not found too much of a problem with discoloration because they are dried immediately after washing. If I notice some darkening I take fine steel wool to them. I also wipe a little oil on their handles now and then.

                                                  Nothing I've used takes an edge as easily.

                                                  1. I make knives. Carbon steel is not for everybody, if you wash and clean and dry it you will have a knife that will last a long time. Carbon steel will turn gray in a little while after you start useing it this is normal. Stainless steel (440C grade) is as good if not better than carbon steel. NEVER put a knife in a dish washer be it carbon or stainless steel.The high tempature of the water will effect the temper of the steel and cause the handle to fail before its time. hope this helps jim